Annulment is a concept about which a lot of misinformation is widely shared in both public opinion, popular culture, and the media. Many people seem to believe that, for example, a failure to consummate a marriage makes the parties eligible for an annulment. Many also believe that a marriage of short duration can be annulled simply because it was short. In Minnesota, both of these statements are false. Minnesota statute 518.02 provides for the different grounds of annulment. However, it is first important to have an understanding between a void marriage and a voidable marriage. Void marriages include those between people related too closely or those between two people where one person is already married. In other words, incestuous marriages and bigamous marriages are void. Minnesota law provides that it is not necessary to go to court to annul those types of marriages, as they were never valid in the first place.
For voidable marriages, it is possible to obtain an annulment if you go to court. These include:
1) one of the parties lacked the capacity at the time the marriage was conducted, by virtue of mental incapacity, intoxication, or the marriage was obtained by force or fraud;
2) one of the parties lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of this inability before the marriage occurred; and
3) one of the parties was under the age of consent, which is eighteen or sixteen with parental consent.
If the annulment is sought based on incapacity, the person seeking the annulment must file for relief within ninety days of learning about the problem. In cases involving a physical inability to consummate the marriage, the person seeking the annulment must file within a year of the marriage. Finally, in cases of an underage spouse, the spouse’s parent has to file for the annulment before the child reaches the age of legal consent. The effect of granting an annulment is to make it like the marriage never happened. This is different from a divorce, which simply ends the marriage at the time the final decree is entered.
Minnesota law provides some extra protections for those seeking annulment. The law provides that in a suit for annulment, a court will still apply the same property division and spousal support rules that would have applied if the parties were seeking a divorce. Moreover, child custody and child support can still be decided in an annulment action.
If you are considering annulment or divorce, call us today. We have extensive experience in speaking with our clients about their options and what best suits their needs.